A FREAK accident claimed the life of a second glider pilot in just over a month at Sutton Bank, near Thirsk.
Peter Heywood, 48, a company director from Finedon, Northamptonshire, died in a ‘million to one’ mid-air collision with another glider after both had taken off from the Yorkshire Gliding Club on October 2.
The accident happened just over a month after a 54-year-old man from Bedfordshire died when his glider crashed on the club's runway and plunged off a 30ft cliff at the end of August.
In the latest accident, Mr Heywood and surviving pilot Steve Algeo, whose escape was described as a miracle, were from Northamptonshire on a trip to the club when tragedy struck shortly after 4pm.
Investigators said both single-seater aircraft were over open countryside, about 1,000ft above Sutton Bank, when they collided, causing the gliders to partly disintegrate in mid-air.
Mr Algeo, from Corby, managed to jettison his canopy, release his safety straps, step onto the wing and parachute to safety. He emerged from the trees to the amazement of 999 crews.
Mr Heywood's body was found beside the wreckage of his aircraft. He had a parachute but there was no sign he tried to use it. Experts fear he may have been trapped by G-forces.
Investigators said the cause was unclear as the weather appeared fine, but they hoped to obtain clues from the gliders' recording kits and eyewitnesses, including the surviving pilot.
Richard Cole, a part-time professional instructor and Yorkshire Gliding Club member, believed the accident happened “because the pilots did not see each other and touched" and agreed it was probably a freak accident.
Martin Pringle, a Great North Air Ambulance paramedic, said he could see it was a tragic accident from the air.
"We were informed the pilot had parachuted out. We were just going to get airborne again when he walked out of the trees carrying his parachute.
"It's a miracle he was uninjured, " he added, saying the man only appeared to have cuts and bruises.
Debris from the crash landed on the A170, which was closed overnight as investigations continued.
Fire appliances from Thirsk, Helmsley, Ripon and Northallerton, along with two Support Officers, were on the scene and two RAF helicopters assisted with the search.
Yorkshire Gliding Club issued a statement saying the accident had been reported to the Air Accident Investigation Branch and the British Gliding Association, which has begun an investigation into the accident.
The club thanked the services for their swift actions.
Along with Mr Algeo, Mr Heywood was a member of the Welland Gliding Club, which said its thoughts were with Mr Heywood's family and widow Carole. It said he was an experienced pilot who was a regular visitor to the Yorkshire club.